Though he flunked out of Scare School, Judge Eric Profancik really enjoyed the extracurricial activities.
"I'm not getting on that Viking ship."
That line represents the most amusing moment from Casper's Scare School, at least from this adult's point of view. During the course of an extremely bland, wholly unoriginal, CGI-created cartoon, that quote was the only thing to shake me out of my stupor. Now you're rechecking "The Charge," and you're confused. Read it a couple more times and it should come to you; but, if it doesn't, here's a hint: When said in the movie, "Viking" comes across to the casual listener more like a certain naughty word that begins with an "f" and has a "ck" in there for kicks. Seeing as this is wholesome, boring, family entertainment, it caught me off balance.
Casper's Scare School is the latest variation on the tired Casper theme. It's Casper being a friendly ghost when everyone in the monster community wants him to scare "fleshies," a.k.a. humans. He doesn't want to, but the head of the community, Kibosh (Kevin Michael Richardson, voice of innumerable cartoon characters), orders Casper sent to Scare School to force him to learn how to be mean and scary. The little ghost doesn't want to go because his needy, fleshy friend Jimmy needs a confidence boost from Casper to succeed at soccer. Regardless, Casper is shipped off. There we meet the two-headed headmaster, Alder (James Belushi, According to Jim) and Dash (Bob Saget, Full House), who is planning to overthrow Kibosh because his "balance" between monsters and fleshies equates to being too nice to fleshies. Casper will stumble into this mess and try and save humans from being scared too much.
Seventy-eight minutes later and you know you've gained nothing yet lost seventy-eight minutes of your life. Casper's Scare School is as bland, banal, and homogenized kiddie entertainment as you can get. Though stated from an adult's perspective, I can't see a parent getting excited and wanting to sit down with his or her child to watch this one once, let alone the numerous times obsessive, televisionized kids are apt to do these days. Yet from a kid's viewpoint, I would have to venture this wouldn't be that much more appealing to them. The story is thin—but still teaches lessons about friendship and being one's self; the jokes fall flat; and the CGI style is average, without any special flair. (That look, Spartan with a touch of Tim Burton, seems to take its inspiration from the 1995 Casper movie.) If we're meant to like the zany characters, that doesn't work either as they're not memorable, and the voice talent used (Belushi, Saget, Phyllis Diller, and Toni Tenille) won't mean anything to kids. It's disposable, generic, kiddietainment.
The DVD is also standard fare. Video looks quite crisp and bold, thanks to its computer-generated roots. Details and sharpness sparkle, though it also shows the lack of detail in the animated environments. I detected not the first flaw in the presentation. Audio is a simple 2.0 mix that conveys the dialogue well without crackle or distortion. There are also a few musical bits in the movie, and those too sound fine and dandy—and, luckily, are not in 5.1 to torment you from all sides. Bonus items are sparse and useless. "A Scream of a Scene" (4 minutes) is the most basic of all ideas, telling kids that you get an idea, make a script, record some dialogue, and animate it! Then there are two music videos, both of nondescript kid's music. Lastly, and "best," is a 1953 classic Casper cartoon (6 minutes), which once again has Casper trying to be friendly, unwittingly scaring everyone except one, down-on-his-luck, outcast animal, who gets a big confidence bump when Casper helps him out.
If you like uninteresting and you enjoy giving kids lackluster stuff to watch, then Casper's Scare School is for you. It's certainly not the worst thing to inflict upon a child, as there is a lesson or two in there, but it's also nothing special. If you're desperate, this will do as a rental. But, honestly, you can just as easily find something better.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• "A Scream of a Scene"
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